We all seem to believe that the different cuisines are just that, completely different. In reality, there is not a lot of difference between some of the foods in the different cuisines. One example would be the American Hamburger Steak and the Japanese Hambagu. In Japan, it is also called Japanese Hamburg. That may be slightly resembling Germany also?!
What is a Hambagu?
What is a Japanese Hambagu? I would love to come up with a somewhat complicated description for you, but I can not. The Japanese Hambagu is simply a hamburger without a bun. It is also quite similar to a Salisbury Steak. The actual hamburger is known to have become popular thanks to Germans who were migrating. It then became a popular main dish. Since then, most places have their own version of the hambagu.
In Japan, this main dish is made with ground or minced beef, finely chopped onions, breadcrumbs, several spices and an egg. It is then made into a round and flat patty. The patty is served with gravy and rice, no bun is needed. The Japanese have a wide variety of Hamburg Steaks.
It is said that in the early 20th Century, many Japanese families and restaurants began cooking their style of Hamburg, of course to them it is the Hambagu. They began adding Japanese Sauces and serving it with rice. Most often you will find that the Hambagu is made with just three basic ingredients; egg, minced beef and pork and bread crumbs, such as Panko. Other times you will notice that many places in Japan will add cabbage, carrots and spring onions. Some places will also add bean sprouts.
Served With Sides
The Hambagu is traditionally served with rice, however, there are other sides that are quite common and are quite similar to other parts of the world. Some of these sides include fries or potato wedges, potato salad, lettuce salad, corn on the cob, coleslaw or even a fried egg.
The Japanese also have a wide variety of sauces they use on their Hambagu. Some of these include:
3.Soy Sauce based Wafu Sauce
4.Tomato based sauce, somewhat similar to Catsup
Demi-glace is quite time consuming to make the actual sauce. However, you can make your own homemade sauce that tastes almost identical by using:
1.The juices from the meat
3.A little sweet barbecue
As stated it is very similar to the demi-glace that is used in Japan. Also, keep in mind that Japan purposely uses a combination of beef and pork. It is generally a 3:1 ratio of beef to pork. Conveniently, supermarkets sell a combination pack of the meat. This way you do not have to buy both separately and then figure out how much of each to use. It is done for you.
Tips and Tricks For Perfection
I grew up watching my mother make this food often. As I got older, I began to help out in the kitchen more. I learned the ways she used to make the Hambagu taste perfect. I will share with you some of these tips.
- Saute the onions until they are translucent and then allow them to cool down completely before adding to the meat mix.
- After adding the breadcrumbs and the egg, knead the mixture until it resembles oatmeal or gruel.
- Toss the patty back and forth in your hands. This helps to get air out and prevent cracking while it cooks.
- After making the patties, let them sit in the refrigerator for half an hour. Cover them with plastic first. This helps to solidify the fats. Remove from the refrigerator when you are read to actually cook them.
- Right before you place the patties onto the teppanyaki, use your fingers to slightly indent each side of the patty. This is done so that the patty does not bulge and swell in the middle when you are cooking it.
- When making the sauce, I highly suggest using red wine in the demi-glace, this makes for a very savory taste. If you cannot consume alcohol, use beef stock to steam cook the meat and give it added flavor.
- When it is time to make the sauce to drizzle over the Hambagu, use the same pan. This allows you to use the ‘crispies’ from the meat cooking. All those juices, the flavors combine to make the perfect sauce. That grease from the meat adds another level of flavor into the already delicious Hambagu.
We would always have the Hambagu with fresh roasted vegetables, a big scoop of sticky rice and a dinner salad. Noone ever left the table hungry in our home.
1 small onion, chopped
¾ pound of beef and pork combination, 2:1
1 tbsp canola oil
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp black pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp milk
⅓ cup Japanese breadcrumbs, called Panko
For cooking the patties:
3 tbsp red wine or beef stock
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce or Tonkatsu Sauce
3 tbsp red wine (or beef stock)
1 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp water
- Collect all the needed ingredients and set on counter
- Chop the onion into fine little pieces
- Heat the oil in a large pan with a heavy bottom
- Saute the onion until it is almost completely translucent
- Set the onion on a plate or in a bowl to cool completely
- Once the onion is cooled completely, put the meat mix into a large bowl and add the onions to it
- Add the salt, black pepper and the nutmeg
- Then add the milk, Panko bread crumbs and the egg
- Stir to combine all ingredients using a large spoon
- Switch to hand kneading the meat mixture
- Continue mixing by hand until it is pale and sticky
- Divide into four sections
- Ball up the meat mix and flatten slightly,
- Toss from hand to hand to remove the air
- Make all your patties this way, form into oval shapes, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, to solidify the fats.
- After 30 minutes, heat 1 tbsp of oil in the pan, make slight indents in each patty on both sides and gently place in the pan
- Cook for three minutes, flip and cook the other side for three minutes, until browned
- Add the red wine or beef broth into the pan and place a cover on top.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 to 7 minutes to fully cook the inside of the patty. Adjust time for thicker patties.
- When the juice runs clear, the meat is done. Increase the heat back to medium and allow the wine to almost entirely evaporate.
- While there is still a little wine, place the patties on individual plates.
- In the same pan, no cleaning please, add the butter, ketchup and tonkatsu or Worcestershire Sauce. Add in the red wine and the water.
- Mix well, bring to a medium heat and allow the alcohol to evaporate
- When the sauce thickens, drizzle a little over each patty and place the remaining sauce into a bowl and place on the table if anyone chooses more sauce.
To store in the refrigerator for up to three days, cover tightly with plastic or put into an airtight container. They can also be kept in the freezer for up to one month.
For those who prefer no meat, let’s add a great recipe for you also. A vegetarian take on the Japanese Hambagu.
120 grams Soy Meat Chunks
2 tbsp Garlic ginger Soy Sauce
½ onion finely diced
3 Shiitake Mushrooms
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
Oil for cooking
1 tsp miso
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp Japanese Brown Sauce
1 cup water
Garlic Ginger Soy Sauce
400 ml Soy Sauce
1 clove garlic
1 clove ginger
- Rehydrate the Soy Chunks by placing them into boiling water for 30 minutes
- Drain the Soy Chunks and squeeze out the water, one by one from the chunks
- Put the Soy chunks into a food processor and mince completely
- Transfer to a large bowl and add the garlic ginger soy sauce
- Allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes
- Finely dice the onion and the shiitake mushrooms
- Add the vegetables, egg and panko bread crumbs, along with the salt and pepper and mix well
- Divide the non meat mix into 4 sections, make each into round patties
- Add the oil to the frying pan and gently place the patties in the pan.
- Pan fry for 5 minutes, then flip each patty over and fry for another 5 minutes
- Add all sauce ingredients to the pan and simmer until thickened.
The Garlic Ginger Soy Sauce does need to be made in advance. Finely grate the ginger and the garlic and place it in a bottle. Add in the Soy Sauce, stir and place into the refrigerator overnight.
Caramelized Japanese Curry
This curry is so good I want to share it with you. I made this but switched it up by combining it with my Japanese Hambagu instead of chicken or cut up meat. The recipe is a classic for my family and we tend to make foods and alter them to our liking. This curry is a must to be eaten with Hambagu.
1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece ginger, minced
2 large or 3 medium white onions, very thinly sliced
3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 lb beef cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium potato, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium carrot, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp salt
1/2-1 tbsp curry powder (depending on spice level desired!)
pepper to taste
1 tsp chili flakes (if you want it extra hot!)
- In a large pot, heat oil over low-medium heat
- Add in garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant
- Reduce heat to low
- Stir in onions
- Put lid on pot and cook until onions are a caramelized paste (approx 45-60 minutes)
- If onions begin to burn, add a small amount of water and stir stir stir
- In a separate pan (while onions are cooking), make your roux
- Melt butter over low-medium heat
- Spoon in flour and stir continuously until mixture becomes light brown (approx 20 minutes)
- Mix in curry powder until roux thickened, remove from heat
- When onions have become a paste, transfer roux into the pot with your onions
- Pour in chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, chicken, potatoes, and carrots
- Increase heat to medium
- Season with salt, curry powder as desired, and pepper to taste
- Mix well and bring entire pot to a simmer until chicken, potatoes and carrots are cooked through
- Serve hot over rice
It does not matter how you like your Hambagu served. It will taste great with the original sauce of a Hambagu and it will also taste great served with a curry alongside it. The dish will fill you with warmth and keep you full for a long time. Japanese foods are meant to be enjoyed, they experiment with the foods, the spices and create such wonderful dishes to enjoy. It is up to you to continue passing the recipes along to others who may enjoy them also. This Hambagu is similar in taste, looks and the way it is made compared to the American Salisbury Steak. Somehow though, after eating both versions, even as an American, I must lean towards the Hambagu. The flavors pop and make the taste buds dance a happy dance. There is no reason not to change up your weekly menus at home, you can make your American favorites as the Japanese do, and share some great tastes with your family.